The reigns of Presidents Bush and Clinton were characterized by differences and the patterns of approval ratings differed considerably. It should be acknowledged that these differences had various implications to the American economy and its general stability as well as foreign undertakings. This paper explores these differences while highlighting the key determinants that could have contributed to this scenario.
President Bush’s reign was perhaps the most dramatic with him having both the highest and lowest approval rating as compared to President Clinton. On average however, Clinton had a higher approval rating of 55% than his counterpart President Bush who had an average of 49% (Reed & Cummings, 2005). Bush’s popularity rose because of his ability to handle the terrorism and the Iraq war to the expectation of most Americans. A significant percentage of Americans approved his way of dealing with this most crucial factor. In particular, his effort to the fall of Saddam Hussein and general approach to terrorism gave him a soft spot in the Americans’ heart.
However, his handling of the economy was viewed to be unsatisfactory with most Americans pointing out that he did not consider the performance of the general economy. During his reign, the economy was unstable with the prices of basic goods like gas and groceries rising. This contributed to the wane of his approval rating especially during the final years of his reign. In contrast, Clinton’s approval rating hit 73% even after the revelation of his controversial scandal with Lewinsky. Since then, critics and political analysts have found it difficult to explain this incident that is the most unique about Clinton’s administration.
President Clinton’s approval rates were higher in the second phase of his reign as compared to his first phase. His ratings were relatively low during his first three years in presidency with the lowest being 37% in June 1993. However, in 1996, his ratings improved to an average of 56%. Generally, Hamilton (2007) affirms that his ratings for the first term were an average of 50%. Again, in 1998 and 1999, his approval rating continued to improve significantly despite his impeachment. Thus, his second term approval ratings averaged 55% and unlike President Bush, his ratings during the last two years were quite stable with a rating of 60% in the final year.
In contrast, when Bush assumed office in 2001, an average 53 percent approved his job rating while only 21% were not content. According to the CBS News (2009), this rating increased significantly to 92 percent after the terrorist attack of September 11. The ratings of Bush remained high throughout 2002 and by March 2003, a significant 68% approved of his presidency. However, as more Americans fell casualties in the Iraq war, his approval began to decline and by November that year, his rating stood at 49 percent. Afterwards, his approval increased because of the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003 but went to the previous trend in 2004 when abuses at Abu Ghraib were revealed. Thus, by March the same year, his rating had fallen to 41 percent.
Nevertheless, after his re election in 2004, his rating improved significantly to 51% though this trend reversed in the subsequent years and by the occurrence of Hurricane Katrina in October 2005, his rating was below 40%. This trend continued and by January 2007, only 27% approved of his performance. Finally, by December the same year, only 20% of the Americans were affirmative with regard to the president’s performance.
From the above trends, it is apparent that the two presidents were different in governance as reflected in their approval ratings. To this effect, President Clinton’s governance was relatively more stable than President Bush’s (Reed & Cummings, 2005). Although President Bush reported a higher approval rating of 90%, on average, President Clinton’s governance was the most favored by the Americans. It can not however be completely assumed that President Bush did not contribute to the growth of America’s economy. In fact, according to the CBS News (2009), the fact that the Americans gave him a second chance in power illustrates their confidence in his rule. Generally, these differences were contributed to by a number of factors ranging from the economy during their terms to personality differences.
The economy is a very critical aspect that is used to measure the performance rate of any president with the implications from the same contributing significantly towards his approval or disapproval. Hence, President Bush’s changes in the approval rating were as a result of the American’s discontent with his handling of the economy. Notably, a significant 58% were not satisfied with how the president handled the economy. However, this concern occurred because of the changes in the overall global economy. It should be noted that this aspect did not significantly affect the rating of President Clinton because then, the global economy was quite stable.
The Iraq war and the ultimate capture of Saddam Hussein contributed a great deal to the publicity of President Bush and owing to the fact that this was in line with the Americans’ expectations, it contributed to his increased approval. However, the increasing number of deaths during the war led to the decrease in the approval rating of President Bush. This was unlike the reign of President Clinton where there were no major international episodes. To this end, during his term, no major wars were fought between America and other nations. The military operations in Mogadishu resulted to very few deaths and this gave President Clinton an upper hand.
Also, unlike President Clinton, President Bush did not enjoy a good relationship with the media and this could have contributed to the frequent expositions and unnecessary attention to his weaknesses like arrogance and incompetence. In this respect, it can be argued that these frequent expositions by the media contributed to the different perceptions by the public with regard to the president’s performance. The good relationship that Clinton established with the media could have acted in his favor by majorly exposing his positivity. Again, this could have been a key determinant of the public approval of his performance.
It should also be appreciated that the good personality that characterized President Clinton could have contributed to the public perception regarding his performance (Hamilton, 2007). Compared to President Bush, President Bill had a good personality and for instance did not hesitate to publicly apologize in incidences when he strayed. As such, Americans loved him and this could have reflected in the performance ratings. This could have contributed to the stability of his approval rating. Again, this trait could explain why contrary to the expectations of many, his popularity and approval improved significantly even after his impeachment.
In conclusion, it should be acknowledged that presidency is a task that requires competence in all aspects. It is because competence is key in enabling a nation’s leadership attain success. In deed, it is the key driver of good governance that is essential for a healthy nation.
CBS News, (2009), President Bush’s Reign: Retrieved July 29, 2009 from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/16/opinion/polls/main4728399.shtml
Hamilton, N. (2007). The Clinton Legacy: USA: Public Affairs.
Reed, T. & Cummings, J. (2005), Public Perceptions of Clinton and Bush: USA: Clandestine Publishing.